Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Recap: "Captain America: The First Avenger" Intro

Another Fourth of July, come and gone.

For most of the world, it was yet another Saturday, spent as most Saturdays are. But for those of us in America, we took the liberty of co-opting some of Ireland’s national stereotypes and spent the day mostly drunk while setting off explosions.

One guy did this. I took pictures of him doing it.
As I waded through the crowd at my hometown’s 4th of July bash, there were a few things I noticed. The first thing I noticed was the utter abundance of southern accents. This struck me as odd because I live in Michigan. But the second thing I noticed was the patriotism. Generally speaking, Americans don’t usually go around in muscle shirts chanting “USA! USA!”

Although it tends to happen quite a bit on the 4th of July.
There’s a very specific sort of fervent patriotism that Americans get on this one day every year. It’s the sort of patriotism that annoys the crap out of the rest of the world.

Am I saying that patriotism is bad? No.

But if you aren’t an American, then it’s a little hard to get excited about America. Like knowing a die-hard sports fan when you can’t tell a hockey puck from a basketball. Which brings me to the big problem with a movie about Captain America.

How do you get the rest of the world excited to see it?

Million-dollar question, there.
Unlike previous entries in the MCU, this film isn’t about a Stan Lee character. Of course, Stan Lee was involved with the character. Stan Lee not only wrote a Captain America prose story as one of his first major comic jobs, but he also came up with the idea to have the character throw his mighty shield, causing all those who chose to oppose his shield to yield.

Originally, Joe Simon was tossing around the name “Super-American,” but he decided that there were too many “supers” running around. And with a sidekick (Bucky) named after Joe’s good pal from high-school, the Captain debuted in Captain America Comics number 1 in March of 1940. This was back when “Marvel Comics” was actually known as “Timely Comics.”

Punching out Hitler right on the cover? You had me at "hello."
Fun Fact: Captain America was fighting Nazis before America even entered World War 2. Simon and Kirby got a few threats over their firm belief that those goose-stepping genociders should be given what-for, but New York’s mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, sent them police protection. Of course, Pearl Harbor ended up changing a few protesters’ minds about opposing Captain America’s adventures….

The captain’s origin is about as basic and contrived as it gets. Skinny weakling Steve Rogers gets selected to test the Super Soldier Serum. It’s a rousing success, but the scientist behind the project, Dr. Erskine, is shot by a Nazi spy. And so, Steve Rogers leads the fight against Axis forces as Captain America!

Careful, Cap! Too much pink energy is dangerous!
 And Bucky became his sidekick by stumbling in on him changing.

Oh, 1940's. You apparently thoughts kids would be hanging out in war zones.
Before The First Avenger, there had actually been four live-action Captain America films made. The first one was a black-and-white movie serial from the 40’s, the next two were made-for-TV movies, and the last one was 1990’s Captain America, which went direct-to-video in the US. I’ll probably cover each and every one of those in due time, but we’re here to talk about the fifth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Production began in 1997 when Marvel was in negotiations with writers and directors. In 2000, they turned to Artisan Entertainment to help finance the movie. Now, if you’ve read the intros to my Recaps of the MCU movie before this, you’ll be wondering where all the legal wranglings are. You know; the stuff like buying back film rights, and figuring out who owns what. Well, this time it was an issue between Marvel Comics and Captain America’s creator, Joe Simon. But things were settled in 2003. Rather anticlimactically.

So when Merill Lynch came along with $525 million for Marvel to make ten movies, things started up again. According to Kevin Feige, the producer, the movie would take place half in WWII and half in the modern day. The original release date was 2008. Jon Favreau was itching to direct, but ended up with Iron Man instead. And I think we all know how that turned out.

"Pretty well, thanks for asking."
After some issues with the 2007-2008 Writers’ Guild Strike, the film was soon back on track, but not before Iron Man dominated the box-office. As I’ve gone over in other intros, the success of Iron Man led to the rest of the planned MCU movies being greenlit. And so, Captain America was slotted in for a 2011 release.
There was no way Marvel would do the Avengers without Captain America.


I know you're going to whine about how you're a founding Avenger in the comics and Captain America isn't, Ant-Man. You're going to complain that they skipped you in favor of somebody who came along to repleace the Hulk. Go ahead. Say it.

"I don't have to. You just brought it up for me."
Whatever. The point is that Captain America is one of Marvel's flagship characters. He’s not only a classic Avenger, he’s Marvel’s oldest character.

Sorry, guys. Marvel’s oldest character that they actually like to use.

"That's better."
Things actually went pretty smoothly from there. Joe Johnston was soon lined up to direct (thanks to his work on October Sky and The Rocketeer) and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were brought in to rewrite the script before handing it to Joss Whedon to make it sync up with The Avengers and the rest of the MCU a bit more.

The biggest problem at this point would be finding its star. At one point, the number one pick for the role was… Will Smith. I think the things I’ve said in this post explain how I feel about that.

Chris Evans, having been burned by Marvel before, turned down the role three times before Robert Downey Jr. actually went to the trouble of calling him up to recommend the role to him.

"Chris? Robert."
"Rob, I know what this is about. Iron Man was good for you, but I don't want to be typecast as a superhero."
"Look, I'm not gonna prod. I just want to ask a question."
"Sure. What?"
"How does it feel to have your most famous film be Fantastic Four?"
"Tell them I'll be there."
Other actors were signed on with little-to-no trouble. Actually, I’d say that this film had one of the smoothest productions I’ve seen out of all the MCU films up to this point. But you probably still want to see some interesting trivia about the production, so here are a few fun facts.
  1. Wolverine and Magneto were going to have cameos. Alas, Fox is very protective of their X-Men film rights.
  2. Reb Brown and Matt Salinger, from the 70’s and 90’s films, respectively, approached the filmmakers to ask for a cameo. Nothing came of it.
  3. Namor the Sub-Mariner, largely considered Marvel’s first superhero, was going to have a cameo.
  4. Baron Zemo and Baron Von Strucker were originally supporting villains, but were cut out so as not to “waste” them in supporting roles. Basically, the film was going to be one long parade of every single World War 2 character Marvel had for a while.
When the film was released, it made $65.1 million its opening weekend.

Good? Yes. But Marvel already had a larger success that same year with Thor. So, good… but not “great.”

It was also the third-most successful World War 2 movie, behind Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor.

So… good. But not great.

In fact, that seems to be the consensus of critics and general audiences. Good. Not great. Which is a bit ironic, considering that the Super Soldier serum is supposed to make good men into great men.

So what happened? Well, let’s take a look.

Coming up in Part 1! Nazis! Gods! Superweapons! …Are we sure this isn’t actually the Atomic Robo movie?


  1. It's weird to think Matt Salinger is related to "Catcher in the Rye"'s JD Salinger.

    1. *Double checks on Google*
      Huh. Well, you learn something new every day.